Simplify Administrative Processes

Complex application processes to incentive or grant programmes can feel intimidating and lead citizens to drop out.

Below you will find a number of techniques you can use to make administrative processes more user-friendly and reduce attrition.

Correct citizens’ beliefs about the application process

Be clear about what individuals can expect from the application process. Help citizens and businesses develop a realistic expectations about:

  1. programme eligibility criteria
  2. the ease of applying to a programme
  3. the likelihood of their application being approved
  4. the benefits that a programme provides.

By taking steps to address misconceptions about the application process, you will be able to bring more citizens and businesses to participate in your programme.


Case Study
Optimising Customer Beliefs to Promote Incentive Programmes within an Energy Company

A project conducted by The Behaviouralist in partnership with a U.S.-based energy company explored the effect of consumer beliefs regarding incentive programmes.

Individuals were sent emails informing them about a programme designed to support homeowners in reducing energy use. Some recipients received an email informing them that they 'may be eligible for the programme,' while others were told that they were 'likely' eligible.

The results indicated that telling people that they were ‘likely eligible’ make them more likely to open the email than those who were told they might quality for the programme.

Correcting perceptions and beliefs about the enrollment process can be an effective approach to boost participation. To learn more about this study, please contact The Behaviouralist directly.

Reduce the amount of information that respondents must provide

Reduce the amount of information required and chunk the process into manageable steps to help citizens and businesses complete their applications.

Lengthy application processes can be overwhelming and intimidating. Simplifying application processes and providing support with application completion can decrease the likelihood that people will fail to complete the application in its entirety.

Key steps for simplifying this process are:

  1. reducing the number of required fields
  2. pre-filling sections and using predictive search functions
  3. including the most burdensome questions or sections towards the end of the application
  4. using drop-down menus to make forms appear shorter
  5. chunking application processes into a set of clear and manageable steps.

Insights from another field
Simplifying the University Financial Aid Application Process

The process of applying for financial aid to enable university attendance in the United States is lengthy and challenging. This can deter students from applying for vital monetary support that they need in order to attend college.

Research indicates that the process of applying for government-provided financial aid could be significantly streamlined without sacrificing the integrity of the assessment procedure.

Making the aid application easier and more straightforward has the potential to increase the number of students who successfully complete all of the necessary steps.

Use prompts and reminders to motivate application submission

Find ways to proactively reach out to individuals who are eligible for the programme, prompt them to apply, and then follow up with individuals who started the application but have not submitted it yet.

This can be accomplished through direct mailers, text messages, or emails to encourage eligible individuals to submit their applications. Numerous barriers might prevent your target group from completing and submitting the application; therefore, providing regular check-ins and reminders is crucial.


Case Study
Increasing Engagement in a Tree Giveaway Programme with Phone Call Reminders

The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department in the U.S. runs a tree give-away programme for city residents to increase the urban tree population. However, many people who express interest in the programme do not follow through with collecting their trees for planting.

A recent study assessed the effect of additional phone call reminders, in addition to standard paper or email reminders, on participant follow-through. The results indicated that phone call reminders increased attendance by 16 percentage points.

Providing opportunities for additional reminders can increase follow-through in sustainability-focused programmes.

Add a sense of progression to the application

Provide applicants with a sense of progression by adding visual cues in the application environment.

People are more likely to drop out from an application when they do not know how far they are and how much additional time and effort the application will entail. Include visual indicators that represent people's progress through the application to reduce the number of drop-outs and increase programme or policy uptake. This will help users to understand where they are in the process and how much more time the application procedure will likely take.


Case Study
Highlight People's Progress when Completing Programme Applications

An experimental trial looked at people’s persistence when going through a multi-step task.

The trial found that providing people with a sense of progress even before they started with the actual task (i.e. by marking the first two steps as completed once an individual engages starts the process) increases the likelihood of completing the whole task and reduces the completion time. One reason to explain this is that an individual wants to avoid wasting the initial progress, despite being completely artificial.

Through this finding, the study demonstrates the major impact of visual progress cues on people’s completion of multi-step tasks.

Follow up and provide feedback

Provide applicants with an outline of the next steps once they have submitted their application.

Without confirmation that the application was received or information on when the person will hear about the results of the application, individuals may be reluctant to apply for similar grants in the future. Inform applicants that their application has been received successfully without any errors, and, if possible, be transparent about next steps and timeframes. If the application is unsuccessful, be as specific as possible about why it was rejected. This will help to maintain individuals’ interest in the programme and their motivation to apply again in the future.